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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Keys To The Game

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When the Buffaloes and Sun Devils meet under the lights on Saturday night the game will likely be decided by normal things like running and throwing the ball and playing or not playing defense. What other under the radar factors will make a difference?

Greg Henderson will have to be doing a lot of this on Saturday night.
Greg Henderson will have to be doing a lot of this on Saturday night.
Doug Pensinger
Tennessee Logo
1-1, 0-0
NR (AP)
NR (Coaches Poll)

September 13th, 2014
Who:
Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona St. Sun Devils
Where: Folsom Field - Boulder, Colorado
When: 8:00 p.m. MT
TV: ESPNU
Radio: AM 850 KOA
Weather:
Mostly sunny, high of 73
Line: Colorado +15.5

Tennessee Logo
2-0, 0-0
No. 16 (AP)
No. 14 (Coaches Poll)

Arizona State comes into Folsom Field on Saturday night ranked 16th in the nation on the strength of a sizzling offense. Colorado enters the game 1-1 with a defense far from in form. ASU runs the ball very well; CU does not stop the run very well. Aside from all that, what strange and indiscriminate factors will play a role in the fate of this Pac-12 opener?

Colorado_mediumSpecial Teams
Arizona State currently ranks 117th in the nation in punt return defense. (I'm reaching here, but there isn't much else to grab on to.) They don't punt much, but when and if they do who's to say Nelson Spruce or Greg Henderson can't flip the field and house one? Conversely, Colorado's kickoff coverage has been downright dismal, to the point where they were squibbing kicks directly into the first line of UMass players to avoid a return. The Sun Devils could very easily shove a Colorado score immediately back into the Buffs' faces.

Colorado_mediumThe Deep Ball
Sefo Liufau has more than demonstrated over the past 10 games that he has the arm and the touch to deliver nicely wrapped gifts of pigskin far downfield. I'm going to keep predicting a gargantuan Bryce Bobo catch until it happens, so Saturday night will be the night that he gets his first big one. It'll be a bit more challenging in this matchup, but Nelson Spruce can still find ways to slip behind the secondary for significant yardage once or twice.

Taylor Kelly also possesses an exceptional passing apparatus and has a large NFL-caliber receiver in Jaelen Strong to throw towards. Strong can move and at 6'3" he has every CU defensive back, aside from Ahkello Witherspoon, beat for height. 6'4" receiver Gary Chambers matches him in the slot while speedy Cameron Smith occupies the other side of the field leaving the Buff secondary to pick its poison. The Devils could very well hit a few long rips of their own, especially if they're effectively running the ball. If nothing else, this game could deliver multiple full-field scoring plays.

Colorado_mediumSouth Park and Beer
These two things have nothing to do directly with the play on the field. But, here's an advanced stat that no one is talking about: Colorado is 1-0 in games prefaced by a South Park intro and undefeated at Folsom Field when two beer gardens (Thank you Rick George!) are operating. I'm not saying that these factors will improve the Buffs' chances drastically, I'm just saying they might be the reason the line is hanging around only two touchdowns. Vegas knows. Cheers to beer being back in Folsom, and here's to the Buffs somehow covering that 15 point spread.